Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Trade deal with China offers hope to beef farmers

A trade deal with China that has ended a ban on exports of British beef offers new hope to beef farmers, but also raise broader issues about UK strategy post Brexit.

A ban on British beef exports to China was imposed following the BSE crisis in 1996. The UK-China Beef Protocol is expected to generate £230m of trade over the next five years. China is the world's largest importer of beef. However, it is expected to be 2021 before supplies start flowing.

In the meantime beef prices are at a low level. Large stocks of frozen beef bought ahead of the original Brexit deadline are still feeding into the system. There has been a collapse in the global leather market affecting hide prices.

More significant in the long run is growing consumer antipathy to red meat because of health concerns and the impact of cattle on the environment, particularly in relation to climate change. 'Flexitarians' are a bigger challenge than vegans.

The broader issue is how far Britain wants to move closer to China after Brexit rather than the United States. There are export opportunities, but also broader concerns about human rights, not least in Hong Kong.

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